Bumpy Roads

I landed in Toronto about a week ago, after finishing up the last few meets of my freshman year down south.  They didn't quite end up the way I had hoped.  I ran two 5000 races a week apart, but blew up big time in both of them.  I haven't even put in the effort to actually find out what the times were, but it was pretty disappointing.  I think I was around 15:40 in the first race, and I wouldn't be surprised if I was close to 16:00 in the second race.  To be honest, I'm still a little confused as to what has gone so wrong in the past few weeks to go from 14:45 to 16:00, but I'm back in Toronto with a few more weeks in the racing season to figure things out and get back on track.

This whole year has been filled with pretty inconsistent performances going all the way back to my injury in cross country up until the problems I've run into over the past couple weeks, but there was a lot more to the year than what the times showed.  I could write pages and pages of blog posts about how much I've learned from my first year in university but it still wouldn't be able to convey the knowledge and experience that I've gained from spending a year in this program in Alaska.  I guess you could say that I came to Alaska as a big, dry sponge and spent the year absorbing everything around me.  I got a really good feel for what it takes to be a part of a successful university program, and I have a really clear image of what I need to do in order to continue improving and developing on and off the track.  I am already feeling eager to get back to school and put this years knowledge and experience to work for more success and consistency next year.

I still have about 11 weeks before I fly back, so I will have quite a bit of time for redemption on the track and base building for cross country.  The rest of the season will have a little stronger focus on 1500 work, maybe tossing in a 3000 or 5000 but I'd really like a few cracks at getting below the 3:58 zone I've been stuck in for a while now.  Not certain about the racing schedule for the rest of the season, but I'll definitely be doing some of the RCLDS races.

On a completely unrelated note, a guy by the name of Erik Van Ingen (3:38 1500) released a film today called "The Real Maine" documenting a summer of training in Maine featuring a bunch of the NCAA's best distance runners.  Pretty inspiring movie, and I definitely recommend all you runners out there check it out when you get a chance.

Click here to watch the movie

Last but not least, I definitely need to give a shout out to the ten UAA Seawolves have qualified for NCAA's this year.  They're taking off to Colorado tomorrow to show the nation what they can do.  You can find results up at goseawolves.com after the meet this weekend.
Give 'em hell Seawolves!


When Running in Alaska...

Yesterday I flew back to Anchorage from California after a few solid meets.  I ran 4:00 and 4:01 down south, so nothing spectacular but good efforts nonetheless.  I talked it over with the coaches a few times, and we discussed the fact that we haven't really developed any pure speed yet in practice, focusing more on the 5000 and building aerobic fitness, so there shouldn't be any concern that I'm not dropping time in the 15 like I am in the 5000.  I think it's a great approach, as I've seen 46 seconds dropped off my 5000m PB in the span of 2 races, something that makes me really excited to put in some further specific 1500m work.

Today I got a start on some of that raw speed work in a pretty interesting way, a different kind of workout that I had never had a chance to do before.  Today's workout was a long run since we didn't get one done in California, and we were all looking to get into the 90 minute range.  I know you're thinking this has nothing to do with raw speed, but believe me when I say I had the pedal to the metal on today's run.  Many of you may not know this, but this was one of my first runs outside all semester.  When I had my Achilles problem last October, I started back by running on the treadmill and next thing I knew the snow had started to accumulate on the ground.  I spent almost all my winter training runs on the treadmill as it offered better footing and a nice temperature.  When we got back from California though, almost all the snow had melted, and the temperature was right around 10 Celcius (50 Fahrenheit).  The trails were still a little bit sloppy due to the melting, but it was perfect running weather so today we all decided to stick to the paved shoulders of some of Anchorage's roads.

Six of us took off, and quickly broke off into 2 groups of 3.  The first group was going a little quick but I went with them anyways, and spent a lot of time yoyo-ing off the back of the two up front.  The other group missed a few lights early on in the run, so I didn't really want to go back and wait for them a few minutes behind.  About 30 minutes in, I fell back a little as I didn't think I could hang on for 90 minutes, so I tried to keep the pace comfortable to get through the whole run at a decent clip.  I could still see the others up ahead, maybe 100 meters or so.  A couple times I thought about trying to get back up with them, but I decided I would wait until they turned back to run with them instead of trying to bridge the gap then.  A few minutes later, both of them went up a pretty sizable hill that went around a curve just before the top, with some short guardrails on either side.  On the outer edge, you couldn't really see anything beyond the rail, as the terrain dropped off pretty quickly.  At this point in the run, there wasn't any traffic on the road, maybe a pick up truck every few minutes, but hardly anything.

As the other two approached the curve in the road, I took a glance up at them, thinking "this is going to be horrible", as my legs started to tire.  So I put my head down, and started to grind away at the hill.  About halfway up, I lifted my head to see how much more of the hill remained.  As I looked up, I caught a glance of a big dark figure right behind the guardrail at the curve in the road.  I did a quick double take, as I thought it might have been a bear or moose.  The dark figure turned to look at me, and sure enough it was the face of a black bear.  It was the first time I had seen a bear in Alaska, so I really had no clue what to do.  The other two were out of sight, so it had become a Kevin Vs. Wild showdown.  For a split-second I wasn't sure if I should follow bear protocol (Yell, back away slowly, make flailing arm movements, don't run etc...) or if I should just start booking it down the hill (being a runner and all).  It didn't take long to make up my mind.  As soon as it hopped over the guardrail onto the road, I took off sprinting down the hill.

I figured I had 30-50 meters on the bear, so if it was going to catch me at all, it would take at least 150 meters.  I quickly looked back at the bottom of the hill still in full stride to see it in the middle of the road still coming towards me, so I kept on hauling.  I was hoping a car would come around the corner as I was running away, but no such luck.  By the time I ran into the second group of guys, I had to have gone 400 meters.  I stopped to turn around with the other group, and thankfully the bear was still only about halfway down the hill walking around aimlessly.  It's pretty unreal to think that if I had held on to the other two for a little longer, or tried to bridge the gap I would have been almost face to face with the bear as it jumped out onto the road.  The other two actually had no idea there was a bear on the road at all as they had just gone around the curve, and thankfully didn't have an encounter with it on the way back.

I'd like to believe that when the bear saw me bolt off it was discouraged and slightly stunned by my unbelievable turnover, but it was probably more amused by the look of terror on my face and the blurts of profanity as I took notice of it at the top of the hill.  Let me tell you that was easily the fastest I have ever run, it's too bad nobody was there to clock a 400m split.  I certainly would have been well below 4:00 in a 1500 if I was being chased by that sucker a little further.  Maybe next race I'll hire someone to jump out unexpectedly onto the track dressed in a bear costume with a lap to go.  It would almost guarantee a closing lap under 60, and possibly a need for a second pair of shorts post-race.

Pretty exciting run overall, and a wonderful way to work on my turnover, but I'm not looking forward to running that route any time soon.


All Aboard the PB Train

Another couple of solid weekend races are in the books.  Last week I was in Oregon for the Willamette Invitational, where I ran another 4:00 in the 1500.  I was hoping for a new PB, but it wasn't meant to be.  I went back to Alaska with a little sense of urgency to make a breakthrough that I believed I was fit for.  This weekend was spent at San Francisco State, where I ran a 5000m in a great heat of 25 or so guys all seeded between 14:40 and 15:00.  Going into the race, the plan was very simple.  Get on the rail, and follow the pace train.  Almost right away, everyone was settled down into a pack running the exact paces I was looking for.  72, 72, 36 for 3:00 at the 1st km, and then lap by lap the pace began to gradually drop bringing me through 2k at 5:56, and 3k at 8:54.  If you recall in my last 5000, I went out in 8:57 and held it together for the most part to finish in 6:08 for the last 2k.  I was a little uncertain about how the last 5 laps would play out going through 3k a little faster this time, but I felt great.  4k was hit in 11:52, and still feeling good I had a 2:53 left in the tank for the last km.  14:45.08 was the final time.

Apart from breaking 15 for the first time, I was excited because this is the breakthrough I had been searching for since last year.  It's pretty clear to me now that last year I wasn't running the mileage I needed to in order to keep it together in a 5k, but with the additional 15 or so miles/week, I am definitely stronger, and able to put up a fight in the last 2km.  It gives me a little more confidence in my aerobic fitness and it puts me in a good position to get into faster races.  One of my big goals this year was to get into the 14:30's and it now seems a lot more realistic and certainly attainable.  Additionally, the NCAA DII provisional standard is 14:35, so I've now set myself up nicely for another shot or two at that time.

For those of you who didn't know, this weekend was one of Stanford's big track meets they host each year, so the Seawolves split up our squad to go to both San Francisco State and Stanford.  All weekend, everyone was getting texts and calls from the athletes and coaches at opposite meets about the big breakthroughs everyone was having.  It almost seemed too good to be true, as personal bests, national qualifiers, school records, and conference records were dropping all over the place.  I'm not even going to try to remember how many records were broken, as there were so many that I'm bound to forget to mention a few.  The full results will be on the Schedule/Results page ASAP.  The coaches agreed it was right up there as one of the best overall weekends for UAA track and field, and that's definitely a great sign to see such solid performances from the whole team.  And the best part is that there is still about 5 weeks to the conference championships, and 7 weeks to nationals for everyone to put in a few more big weeks of focused training.

One of the benefits of being in the San Francisco area is that after my race I got to head over to watch the big boys running the 1500s, 5000s, and 10000s at Stanford.  It was pretty sweet getting to watch some of the Seawolves rip it up with some of the best runners in the country.  It was also great to watch guys like Tegenkamp, Jager, Bairu, Ritz, Levins, Derrick, Bauhs, and a bunch of others get after some quick times.  Getting to meet Lawi Lalang after his race, and going out onto the track with Alberto Salazar as he gave Ritz splits during his 10k was just a bonus to a great day. Then, as if the first day wasn't enough, on our run the following morning, the Kenyans on our team ran into Bernard Lagat's brother (27:50 10k), so he joined along for our team long run.  Pretty awesome weekend.  Now it's time to get back to business for a few more hard workouts the next 2 weeks.  Not 100% sure when I'll race next, but I'll keep you posted.

P.S. One thing I forgot to mention was that Anchorage just broke the record for the most snow in one season in the history of the city (just under 12 feet).  Adding that to the coldest January in Anchorage's history made for a pretty chilly, snowy winter up in the Big One, but spring is certainly on it's way.